Cowboy Crocs and Power Pouts
after school weekend edition
Welcome back to After School Weekend Edition. Think of the Monday-Thursday letters as the CliffsNotes; this is the extended version for paid subscribers. Thanks for reading — your support makes this possible! 💫
A few weeks ago, we talked about the launch of Yaysay, a new AI-powered shopping app that aims to gamify off-price shopping. Think TJ Maxx for digital native Gen Zers.
Off-price retailers are thriving right now; TJX, which operates T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods, reported a 7.7% year-over-year increase in sales, driven by higher store traffic. The company attributes improved inventory to the offloading of premium merchandise by other retailers. Ross has seen similar success, reporting positive second-quarter results, with a net income of $446 million and a 5% increase in same-store sales. But no one has successfully adapted off-price retail as an online experience.
Created by Casper co-founder Philip Krim, Yaysay blends elements from social media, video games, online ticketing, and dating apps, offering daily curated items with a countdown timer for purchase decisions. The app is designed to create a sense of urgency and excitement in discovering discounted items from various brands. Right now, it’s waitlist-only, but I signed up on launch day (Sept. 27) and was given access this week.
I’ve opened the app for the past four days, and I like it! It’s fun. It reminds me of a dating app I tried years ago — Hinge? The League? Coffee Meets Bagel? There were so many — that gave you a specific amount of potential matches at noon every day, which imparted a sense of urgency and trained users to open the app at the same time, day after day.
As far as the inventory goes, the prices are good and the brands are decent, though most of it is not my style. There’s a lot of Golden Goose (Geese?) and Vejas, and a lot of real statement items: cashmere sweaters with flashy cutouts, heavily distressed jeans, sequin flare pants. Very Revolve. There have been one or two things I’ve been tempted to buy, like a wavy-print Mansur Gavriel bucket bag and a pair of Loeffler Randall clogs, but I’ve been able to talk myself out of impulse-buying expensive (albeit discounted!) accessories I don’t need.
Is this the future of retail? No. But it really is enjoyable.
Speaking of “future of retail” narratives, Showfields — which was called “the department store of the future” by Fast Company in 2019 — has filed for bankruptcy after closing their Manhattan flagship. The company intends to continue operating its stores in Washington, D.C., and Brooklyn while addressing outstanding bills; I walk by the Williamsburg location often, and it’s always completely empty even though it sits across the street from an always-busy Trader Joe’s. I can’t speak to the future of retail, but I do not feel good about the future of Showfields.
We know consumers are still interested in shopping in person — after all, foot traffic is up at TJ Maxx — but the demise of Showfields shows that while shoppers very much value discovery, they want more than flashy curation. Showfields never did a good enough job of answering one central question: Why these brands? There are so many interesting and cool lines out there, too many to convince a customer to care unless you tell a really, really compelling story. And even that’s not enough. A compelling story can draw a customer in, but if the product itself isn’t superior, they’re simply not going to buy it.
Today we’re talking about:
The teen skincare surge (not one but three!!! new teen skincare brands launched this week)
Emma Chamberlain’s very PNW art teacher Levi’s collab (which she launched while sitting front-row at PFW)
Cult Gaia’s return to the runway
The NYC menswear retailer trying to bring Gen Z in with Atari games
Abercrombie’s first-ever capsule collection (with an up-and-coming designer who has fewer than 2K IG followers…)
The $30 cardigan fashion girls are selling out
The Gen Z-coded social wellness startup coming to Brooklyn
Fruit of the Loom’s extremely Duolingo-ish TikTok playbook
Two genuinely clever influencer TikTok brand strategies
The “call me crazy if you want” meme
The viral theory that Gen Zers are secretly running Gordon Ramsay's YouTube
The very cute dad TikTok trend
And everything else that happened this week in brands, trends, and internet culture. Before we jump in, my favorite TikTok of the week:
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